ATL (2006) Film Review

Feature Image Source: Alchetron

From the outset, ATL seems like another adolescent film that examines the African-American experience in a lower-class neighborhood of Atlanta; however, this is not necessary the case with this film, it is so much more than that.

ATL is a beautiful film written by Antwone Fisher and directed by Chris Robinson, which if I ever write a film, I will make sure Robinson directs it. It stars rapper T.I Harris, Lauren London, Evan Ross and Outkast rapper Big Boi. The film primarily focuses on four working-class teenagers who, throughout the film, are pure at heart and have goals to grow and strongly distinguish themselves from crime and negative influences in their community. As the friends look forward to new horizons after high school, they face challenges on and off the rink that bring about turning points in their lives. 

Robinson is not a known film cinematographer as he only directs rapper T.I’s music videos. This is the first time Robinson has directed a film and did a phenomenal job at it. He is the only amateur director that I have and will praised in this blog. One of my favorite scenes is the intro of the film where T.I characters narrates the location of his home. He refers to it as “middle of the city, center of the universe,” at this moment Robison zooms in the characters home and and quickly switches over to a shot of the blue sky as soon as T.I says “center of our universe.” An element that I praise Robinson for is the use of text. There is a montage scene where all the skate teams are being introduced and Robinson creatively designs a text to compliment each groups individual aesthetic.

For a long time, films about the African-American experience have been documented on film through white screenwriters and directors. I praise this film for providing an accurate representation of the African-American community. I especially enjoy the pure protrayl of the main group of friends. Whenever these four men hang out, it’s filled with laughter and loyalty, a unique element that is not always found in such films. The surround themselves in their humble community and give each other a hard time, an element that all can relate to regardless of race or social economic class.

What I especially enjoy from this film is the narration. We received insight of Rashad’s (T.I.) character. Some of the script beautiful narrated, such as Rashad describing skating as a prominent activity by stating, “sometimes I feel like out there all by myself, floatin’ above it all, no lies, no pain, and no worries what tomorrow might bring.” This is a significant statement coming from a character living with resentment in a troubled community. He mentions, “Inside here, it’s like all our problems don’t exsist. Its the only place where we all felt like we could be free.” The reality being, “school sucks, rent past due, your girl left.”


Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures (Source: 2020)

What is most prominent about the film is its ability to also demonstrate the lifestyle of the wealthy, white Americans. One of the characters, Esquire, goes to school with the children of the wealthy 1 % that resides in Atlanta. At the verge of graduating, he seeks a letter of recommendation to received financial aid to pay for the ivy league school he just got accepted to. The film pans through a affluent neighborhood as we learn that Esquire desire to leave “the ghetto” and rise to a higher social economical class. This transition of poverty to wealth can also be seen in the films intro. I provided the clip below. Be cautious of the images.

Video Provided by YouTuber syndromestudio

This film not focus on all pure and humble characteristics in the community, it also demonstrates the dangerous influences that lurk beneath it all. T.I character’s brother Ant, played by Evan Ross, is taken under the wing of a local drug dealer that leads him to a dangerous path of life or death. After the climax of the film is reached, the rising action is granted with a gorgeous poem from Big Cube, Love’s Deceit. I provided a clip of the scene below, it makes me cry every time I listen to it (which is every time I run).

Video Provided by YouTuber ZAI ENT

I hope you enjoy these clips and hopeful take an interest in the film.


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